Los Angeles native, Ron Finley, is a man of his word. Finley said: “plant some shit” in an effort to inspire his community to cultivate plants, and that is what he continues to do. His repurposed swimming pool functions as a nursery today where his foliage thrives. Like the plants he grows that are vital components to a healthy community, so too is his spirit and presence to the Crenshaw community immediately, and to Los Angeles in general. Finley’s efforts have also gone on to inspire people around the world.
The Cheasepeake Ave residence Finley calls home is a reflection of his vision. Bees, Veggies, Succulents, and Cacti among others thrive in an environment cultivated by the self-proclaimed Gangster Gardener. What with Los Angeles being the gang capital of the world, for some the gangster part of his title may be seen as apt while the gardener part may be vexing. This would suggest that outsiders are myopic in their assessment of his genius and of men like him. That gangster part may be off putting to some, but for Finley is is a requisite definition of his work. Somehow I don’t think his gangster means violent, but rather resolute, sturdy, fortified (like the roots of plants) by strong values and principles.
Finley’s example is a reminder to all Angelenos that we have the power to define our lives by our own means. With hoe, shovel, and rake in hand, he has nurtured a new reality that results in a vibrant Eden he has grown by any means necessary. He recycles and reuses, which in turn redefines his and our community. He calls for us to do the same by reminding us to “plant some shit,” “grow,” “dream,” and “believe” as the cool inspirational signs inform visitors. Coincidentally, it was this same philosophy that rang true for another heroic Angeleno, Nipsey Hussle, who once pondered: “Who would you want to tell your story, someone else, or yourself?” Nipsey’s efforts planted seeds of inspiration in the minds of Angelenos as he also once stated: “the highest human act is to inspire.”
For me, Finley is an inspiration and another example of how the Black Renaissance has taken form and continues into 2020 and beyond.